“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”
Walt Disney (1901-1966)
Animator, film producer, director, screenwriter, entrepreneur
can’t tell you how often I’ve heard that what I wanted to do was impossible.
When we began our non-profit for training assistance dogs for the disabled, nobody had ever heard of such a dog here. Yet everyone was ready to tell us we’re nuts, that in this country, we’ll never be able to do it or raise enough funds. Since then, we provided over 200 top-trained dogs, with an annual turnover of around 350,000 USD.
A friend once voiced her concerns about all the things she’d like to accomplish by the time she’s forty. It wasn’t until then that I realized I had no such urges. I feel no need to prove myself, because I’ve already done ‘the impossible’ so many times it became commonplace. It may sound like bragging, but the point I’m trying to make is that you shouldn’t let your circumstances or other peoples’ opinions stop you. Dream big.
The Michael Jackson Legacy
As a teenager, I had no access to a car to take me to a Michael Jackson concert in Germany, so I organized a bus trip for forty kids to come along. The closest town they’d sell us tickets was Bremen (615 km). Having grown up listening to Michael’s music from illegally smuggled tapes, this was not only a dream-come-true but something formerly impossible to come true.
Lessons in Limitlessness
In the early 1990’s I met my disabled friends and, for them, many of the things we took for granted weren’t possible, but only due to their physical disabilities. We took them beyond the walls of institutions, carried wheelchairs up and down thousands of steps and had a lot of fun doing it all – seemingly the ultimate shock to a post-communist society. At that point, many adults had literally never seen a disabled person before. Many mothers covered the eyes of their children so they wouldn’t stare. We dared being stared at.
When people tell me that they deem something impossible, I remind them that I grew up with Jakub Koucký (photo above). Not only did he go down that sand dune, but he also drove an old Trabant across Australia, sails boats, does climbing and white-water rafting, parachutes from airplanes and rides a motorcycle. His passion for adventures resulted in founding a non-profit enabling the disabled to enjoy extreme sports! He’s also behind other charity projects and works as a graphic designer and is a proper computer geek.
My own charity projects are direct results of Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror – “Take a look at yourself and make that change.” And I see the social shifts already. For the past decade, I’ve been lecturing and writing on the subject of animal-assisted therapies, which were initially received very skeptically by both officials and the medical community.
Recently I wrote an educational article for the Slovak Medical Chamber – and I’m not a health-care professional! They asked for it because they wanted their doctors to better understand this field. Somehow that tide is turning as well. The people I help train tend to have results where standard medicine doesn’t – they’re doing the impossible on a daily basis. I have personally chatted with formerly mute children and took walks with some that were originally sentenced to living in a horizontal position, not even in a wheelchair. Impossible quickly becomes a relative term.
My Two Worlds
I’m surrounded by two groups of people. My Czech colleagues and friends who were always unstoppable. They are successful in their own ways, not because they’re Czech but despite being Czech. They continue doing what the rest of this society considers impossible and think nothing of it. It’s who they are, but they get precious little encouragement. I can’t even conceive of the wonderful things they could do if they actually received proper support, if everything didn’t have to be an uphill struggle.
The other group is foreigners living in the Czech Republic, who are mostly from artistic circles. They are unusual, to begin with, for having left their home and set off to explore the world. These are what you might consider personal friends, but they feel more like family, perhaps because the ex-pat community tends to be tightly knit and amazingly supportive.
There’s a Better Way
My ex-pat friends have done the impossible not just by leaving their home country, but by proving that there is a better way. It’s possible to both give and receive encouragement, to erase the boundaries of age, religion, nationality, cultural background, sexual orientation or any other barrier you can imagine.
In fact, we embrace our differences and learn from each other. This is not some vague promotional speech for globalization, it’s my daily reality. In ‘my world,’ it’s not only commonplace for people to do the impossible, but people around them no longer use the term. This has probably been the greatest blessing in my life.
We live in a world where new inventions, new ways of thinking appear daily and it would be foolish to think that you can’t do something. Some goals are not worth the sacrifices involved, but most are. Believe me – whatever you dreamed up, it’s possible and you can go for it. And even if it doesn’t work out, you are still richer for the experience and ready to take on a new project. As Jakub says “There are no problems, only challenges.”
Photos: Jakub Koucký’s archive (photos by Vojta Duchoslav for the Transtrabant.cz project)